Meryl Streep is an old ill heiress who has always dreamed of performing on a big stage to thousands of people. There is just one problem – she can’t really sing. But she doesn’t know this and Hugh Grant (her husband) isn’t about to tell her. So with sheepish pianist Simon Helberg accompanying her she trains her voice Meryl prepares herself for the biggest (and only) performance of her life.
Now I was already set up not to especially like this movie. The subject matter isn’t something that interests me – a posh old woman pays her way through the musical industry and forces her dreadful music on people. However I have to admit that I was immediately charmed.
While (much like in Into the Woods) I think that Streep could’ve probably done this performance in her sleep that doesn’t make it any less impressive because let’s face it she is quite other worldly. I do think that she could release a video of her sneezing and it would get a Golden Globe nomination, but it would also probably be completely gripping and wonderful. Her being great isn’t a surprise, however other cast members have been less consistent. Much as I have always liked Hugh Grant, the man has released his fair share of clunkers but here he’s the best he’s been since About a Boy and really is the heart and soul of the film. And of course there’s Simon Helberg famously the best thing about dreadful TV show The Big Bang Theory and he is great here. A true master of the reaction face, Helberg playing the piano and hearing Meryl sing for the first time is one of the funniest scenes I have seen in a while.
The film itself is fairly ordinary though it does make little reveals rather nicely throughout the drama. Cinematically it inhabits a sort of middle ground between belonging on a cinema screen and that of a TV. It’s not entirely televisual but at the same time it’s not exactly cinematic, though really it’s just a platform for the three main performers to shine and they really do.
Overall, I was very pleasantly surprised by Florence Foster Jenkins because honestly I wasn’t expecting much and it’s really quite lovely.